Now You See It … gives a glimpse into the ephemeral process of MFA student
The four-year cycle of a university student is a fairly common theme that runs through anything that goes on in the university. Institutional memory dies fast when students are cycling out.
Think that’s frustrating? Try being in a master’s program. Rushed through in two years, students at the master’s level are here for a minute and then gone the next.
It’s the kind of thing that only a group of MFA candidates would think to make the subject of an exhibition. Now You See It… showcases the work of seven MFA candidates and the very ephemerality of not only their work, but their very existence in the program.
“It’s kind of a theme in the MFA program,” said Troy Coulterman, one of the candidates. Coulterman’s hollow-case Aqua-Resin molds deal with the ideas of the figurative and are influenced by cartoons and comic books. Coulterman believes that, regardless of the content of the work, each work represents that particular moment that the artist is at in the MFA program.
“I just look at it as all of us going through this program together,” Coulterman said. “This sort of transition of exploring what we’re really sort of passionate about and where we want to interact with the viewer.”
Keith Bird is the only Aboriginal artist in the show, and he believes his pieces don’t have anything to do with the theme “now you see it” at all.
“Actually, all they are is a glimpse into Aboriginal spiritual culture,” Bird said. “I don’t think it [fits into the show], because it’s completely different, there’s nothing like it.
“So, like all Aboriginal people, it’s out of place,”
And, in some sense, each piece is out of place, as each piece is very much unlike the next and will be very much unlike the thing that came before it and the thing that comes after it.
“We were originally thinking about ephemeral artworks and artworks that were in transition and progressing,” said Jesse Goddard, “So we’re basically developing it. So it’s a now you see it, now you’ll see something else, now you won’t see this, maybe you’ll see something completely different.”
“It’s a first introduction for a lot of us to the school and vice versa,” said Edward Bartlett. “The school is kind of being introduced to us as each piece is pretty representative of what we do. So it’s an eclectic mix and you kind of get an idea of the personalities … and what kind of stuff we like to do.”
And being that this is only a first glance, we should be seeing a lot more of the MFA students in the next year.
“That or we’re fired,” Bartlett joked.
At first glance at Bartlett’s piece, you may be uncertain with what it is, or what to do with it.
“It’s an interactive piece. It’s one of those money grabbers,” Bartlett said. “It’s a collaborative piece I made with five other printers. I made the box and the hundred [dollar bill], but people from the printmaking department made the 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 [dollar bill]. ”
The low drone of a vacuum blows the money in Bartlett’s bright red box when someone comes near sounds throughout the entire gallery. People are invited to stick their hands into the box and take out and take home with them some of the printed money.
Each bill is a little bit different from the one it is based on. Instead of featuring the Queen, the $20 bill features an image of Stephen Harper and a cat, while the $10 bill features Louis Riel in the place of Sir John A. MacDonald.
“So it’s a comment on value and where we find value in artwork,” Bartlett said, “and where we find value in life as we work with other people.”
As for how this fits into the larger scheme of the show, Barlett said his piece “comments on that ephemeral kind of transitory nature of value and how it’s ever shifting.”
“It comments even in just currency exchange, how different currencies are constantly changing in their value even though the bill itself doesn’t change,” he said. “It could have been printed in 1974 and the value of that particular bill was printed at a certain value and at a certain cost at the time.
“But at the same time its constantly changing and evolving and different promises are being kept or not kept between different countries. … It’s value and how we determine value as a society and where that value may lie in a piece of art work.”
Goddard has the only piece of “kinetic art” in the show. He plans to develop further over the summer into a larger piece to be displayed at the Artful Dodger in the near future.
“I’ve been commissioned to do a work for that,” Goddard said. “So, I’m doing a piece for cost that’s going to be a kinetic mural on a big curved 23-foot wall … this is where I’m sort of testing out how my design translates into the work itself.”
Goddard’s piece is an intricate series of metal bars controlled by a single motor that moves nearly imperceptibly. The piece casts a shadow that never looks the same twice.
“This piece is really about the line and shadow and the slow movement that’s just perceptible,” he added.
The largest, but most unnoticeable piece in the entire show is Andrea Kowalchuck’s self-portrait in chalk drawn directly onto the gallery wall. Kowalchuk’s work deals with trauma and psychology and. like Goddard’s exploration of design, her large chalk drawing – which reaches nearly from the floor to the ceiling – is an exploration of the sorts of scale she wants to use in her work.
“I’m currently working with my own body and trying to come up with poses that sort of represent the psychological happenings that go on after experiencing trauma,” Kowalchuk said. “Right now, this one’s looking towards being internalizing or shying away from the problem.”
Kowalchuk added that, because her piece is done in chalk, “It will wash of the wall and never be seen again.”
The same can be said of April Fairbrother’s clay bed. While some parts of it are made of fired clay – the castors the bed stands on and the afgan on the bed – the bed is made entirely of unfired clay.
“It’s very ephemeral, it’s very temporary,” Fairbrother said. “If you took a hose and melted it down, all that would be left is the blanket and the feet underneath and the armature underneath. So as a piece, it’s something that breaks down over time. It’s all about transformation.”
Fairbrother’s work deals much with the domestic and “feelings of security and insecurity within the home.” For her, the clay bed is like another one of those “safe zones,” but one that is unstable and liable to break down. It’s simultaneously solid and not solid, much like how she sees her position in the university.
“So I mean within the institution this is the solid in life,” she said, “and looking at how we move through the program and how we come out of it.”
The other two MFA students, Rowan Pantel and Rob Hillstead, were unavailable for interview. The show’s reception is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on March 22 and features a performance by John Trinh.